A individual look at of UC Berkeley’s EECS disaster

The subsequent is my private feeling. I do not speak for the EECS division, campus or any one else.

UC Berkeley’s electrical engineering and laptop sciences division faces a catastrophe. It is trapped in a campus that underfunds undergraduate instruction but also demands that the division accommodate a enormous growth in desire. 10 several years ago, the section graduated approximately 400 pupils with Bachelor’s levels in EECS or computer science. This calendar year, the quantity will probably be 1400, or roughly 15%, of all undergraduates. Practically all of that development is in the School of Letters and Science CS important.

A department that has privately tried out to maintain matters collectively through a decade of unparalleled expansion now lacks the funds to train at scale and has to consider unilateral action. Consequently, for instance, CS 70 (a class wanted to declare Letters and Science CS), is nearly unquestionably going to be restricted to those who were admitted as intending to do CS commencing in fall 2022. Ideally, this restriction will not implement to current students — but that is nonetheless up in the air.

The elementary trouble commences with a campus that intentionally underfunds undergraduate schooling. The campus offers departments this sort of as EECS with a price range of somewhat a lot more than $50 per college student-credit rating for each hour to spend for both lecturers and TAs. A pupil in a 4-device course contributes around $200 out of the student’s general tuition for these costs. But the precise expense to a section is far more than $350 for each college student for that 4-device course, forcing departments to locate extra money to deal with the upward of $150 for each scholar hole.

At this level, the EECS division is managing an yearly deficit of approximately $5 million, and chopping this needs considerably reducing enrollment in CS classes. But the deficit is in several approaches an excuse to do what desires to be completed as no other significant campus teaches at this seemingly extremely hard scale.

We stumbled our way into handling the demand from customers by scaling class means using undergraduate TAs. We can preserve a pipeline of students who initial consider the course then serve as a reader or tutor then as a TA for many semesters. But this pipeline operates only if a course is taught every semester. This approach has permitted lessons, this sort of as CS 161, CS 188, and others to each and every support extra than 1,000 students a yr.

If we get rid of just one of these classes for a one semester — as might materialize quickly — this disrupts the talent pipeline. Now the course adjustments from one particular that can guidance 1,000 college students a yr to a single that can help maybe 300 as the undergraduate talent pipeline evaporates. Dropping just a solitary one of these scaled courses will be a disaster considering that the section need to give additional than 7,000 scholar-seats for every calendar year in the upper division programs. It will make a scenario wherever there are simply not adequate classroom seats for our existing majors to satisfy graduation necessities.

Frequently teaching the exact course in purchase to preserve the pipeline is a recipe for school burnout and, devoid of campus support, a thankless endeavor. Dropping the college student inhabitants by additional than 50% would eradicate the want to keep the educating pipeline for so a lot of courses, enabling the office to safely and securely offer a lot of of these classes only when a year relatively than every single semester.

The office experimented with to convince Letters and Science to change to a freshman admission model for CS in order to manage the dimension of the main. Letters and Science turned down it. Hence it is very likely that CS 70, a course important to declare the CS major that no other main needs, will be restricted starting off in fall 2022 to only the pupils who essentially shown CS or EECS as their supposed main, chopping by the backdoor a significant that Letters and Science refuses to let the department to command previously in the pipeline.

And if this proposal is somehow circumvented or rejected by Letters and Science, it would be organic to restrict CS 70 to “declared EECS and Letters and Science college students only” in 2023 —and, considering the fact that a college student cannot declare in Letters and Science until finally they take CS 70 1st, will destroy the Letters and Science main totally.

The income is no doubt a worry. But even if UC Berkeley would fund the department’s teaching (in the conclude it would price much less than $5 million a yr, or half of the stadium credit card debt payments that campus took above from the athletic department), the department is still in threat of shattering just because of to demand.

In an ideal planet, the EECS section would teach all individuals at UC Berkeley who want to pursue CS. But that would have to have specific campus help — not only a considerably greater amount of Short-term Tutorial Workers funding to eliminate the department’s deficit but also a willingness to deliver additional school slots to empower the EECS department to improve with the demand. As a department, our university student/school ratio is 3 periods even worse than equivalent institutions.

Devoid of this guidance, the selection of students has to be substantially minimize only to stay away from the even even worse result of an higher division course failing. A properly supported EECS division could manage this scale, but it necessitates equally price range and will and due to the fact there is no finances, why establish the will?

Nicholas Weaver is a before long-to-be previous lecturer in laptop science at UC Berkeley. He does not expect to train again at UC Berkeley in the foreseeable long term. Make contact with the opinion desk at [email protected] or abide by us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.